The editorial published on Saturday, Sept. 5, from the Bloomington, Illinois Pantagraph, “We Must Begin Listening” is representative of the blind panacea that has deepened our current societal problems – no one’s right or wrong; truth is relative. Such thinking is subversive. The well-meaning, idealistic belief that everyone can be made to listen may work in a utopian dream, but it is impractical in the real world.
People disagree. The more we deny that there are real truths, the more disagreements we will have. There has never been a time when humans did not challenge authority or seek greater power. It is all through the Bible, beginning with Adam and Eve defying God in the Garden of Eden. It is also all through history. Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar are examples of power-hungry leaders of ancient times, the last of whom was killed by those that defied his authority. Those with an agenda of power, control or disruption, are less inclined to listen.
Even in America, our American Revolution was an open defiance of British authority, because the two sides would not listen to each other. The Civil War is another example of a struggle for power because the two sides wouldn’t listen.
In America, following the Revolution, we created laws to guide the affairs of its populace; rules for living together in a civilized world. These were not intended to be relative to one’s own belief system. While America encourages free thinking and speech, it has laws to regulate actions. Before strong U.S. marshals took control in the “wild west,” bad men ruled without laws, intimidating and sometimes killing the more passive with unchecked violence.
There have been many comparisons of our current pandemic, to the Spanish flu of a century ago. I fear no one is looking at another world-changing event of a century ago – the Russian Revolution. The times are eerily similar. The Bolsheviks were only one of several Marxist groups rebelling in open anarchy to the Czar’s administration, which was forced out of power in October 1917, leaving an even more divided nation while the various groups struggled for power. There were some, even Americans like John Reed, who supported the revolution and pleaded for listening to each other. To no avail. Power willed out, and Lenin took charge, only to be succeeded by Stalin.
Seemingly in denial of the mass executions carried out to maintain control in the newly formed Soviet Union, some Americans in the 1920s and 1930s openly supported the Russian model of Communism was a solution to America’s “abusive Capitalism” that they believed harmed labor in general and especially minorities. The growth of Communism in America led to violent labor strikes – perhaps the most famous being the Longshoremen’s Strike of 1934. It shut down shipping for several months with violent riots. Like today, there were abuses on both sides.
It could have been worse. First the National Guard was sent in to restore order. Then Communist agitators were jailed and put on trial for criminal syndicalism and inciting violence, And only then, were labor and management brought in to listen to each other and resolve the strike. Law and order must be maintained before people will listen. Without it, power struggles are inevitable. Some factions have other agendas and will never listen. As long as BLM and Antifa lead the anarchy, there will be no listening.
Even with law and order we are not assured people will listen. There does not seem to be much listening in Congress these days – just a lot of talking. The Legislative Branch is supposed to represent “We the People” and write the laws, correcting them when needed, to assure order. It seems today they are more interested in representing the divide, rather than solving it. We need our representative government to support the laws of the land and maintain order. If they fail us now, forget listening. Do you think the Bolsheviks listened to anyone that defied their authority? Do you think it will be any different with today’s Marxist groups if they topple our government?
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” [George Santayana (1863-1952), The Life of Reason, Volume 1 (1905)]
Neal Hotelling lives in Sebring and is the author of “Pebble Beach Golf Links: The Official History.” He also writes a weekly History Beat column for the Carmel (California) Pine Cone newspaper. Guest columns are the opinion of the writer, not necessarily that of the Highlands News-Sun.